Another show in the middle of the week. Normally
this isnít a big deal: my real job is pretty flexible, which
means I can pretty much take off at will if Iím going to be
out late the night before. However, for once I had a full work
schedule, and I had no business going to a show on a Thursday.
On the other hand, despite the late times and occasional work
conflicts, I actually prefer weeknight shows. At my normal venues,
the crowds are thinner and the air is less thick with sweat
and cigarette smoke during the week. And I always feel a bit
sorry for those small touring bands who play in the middle of
the week, usually to a sparse crowd.
Such was the case with Midstates, a Chicago band of whom Iíd
never heard but who came highly recommended by a trusted source.
When I asked around our little group of Minions, PostLibyan
was the only who could tell me anything. He basically said that
Midstates were sort of a space rock band that sounded a bit
like Spaceman 3. Well, I may own a number of Spaceman 3 records,
but Iím not a huge fan of the space rock genre. Still, the person
who recommended Midstates to me has never led me wrong. So with
a slight skepticism in the back of my mind, I decided to take
a chance and venture out to The EARL.
When PostLibyan and I got to The EARL, the venue was mostly
empty and the first band, apparently called The Good Players,
was just getting ready to take the stage. As they took their
places, I found myself pondering their somewhat odd lineup.
First off, they were a 7 piece -- and one member appeared to
be dressed in decontamination suit. Similarly, the instruments
that lined the stage consisted not only of the usual guitar,
bass, and drums, but also saxophone, trumpet, banjo, and a small
purple childís piano shaped like a dinosaur, in addition to
other assorted pieces of noise-making equipment. The setup reminded
me a little of A Fir Ju Welll meeting Empire State, but with
a little more whimsy.
Unsurprisingly, when The Good Players started their first song,
my suspicions were confirmed. They began by creating a drone
with both the banjo and trumpet, which was then overlaid by
rhythmic guitars and drums. However this lulling sound was broken
when the vocalist began -- his singing alternated between a
soft melodic indie pop style and straight out hardcore screaming.
The slightly schizophrenic tone of the music stretched throughout
their set. One song had a part where the band implored the audience
to play noisemakers and horns. Yet another song had a slow,
dreamy Luna-esque feel, which was subsequently shattered by
members of the band banging on those assorted pieces of equipment
(such as the dinosaur piano). And throughout the set, the various
members swapped instruments in a way which did not seem necessary,
but rather came across as distracting. As The Good Players reached
the end of their somewhat short set, I had to admit that I found
the band odd and entertaining, although it would have been a
stretch to call them good. Nevertheless, the sheer spectacle
was worth the price of admission. And I did find myself paying
close attention to their sound, if only so I could hear what
chaos the band would engender next.
With such an unusual opening act, I was beginning to doubt
the wisdom of coming to see Midstates. Yet when they finally
took the stage, they certainly didnít sound like I had expected.
PostLibyan immediately thought they sounded a bit like Spiritualized.
But as for me, I couldnít quite classify them. The two guitarists
had many many guitar pedals between them, and yet they didnít
create an impenetrably loud wall of sound and effects. Instead
the focal part of the sound (which may have been due to the
mix at The EARL) seemed to be the keyboards and drums. Perhaps
I paid the most attention to these parts because those individual
musicians involved were extremely talented. The drummer played
with a wildness that seemed, at time, to teeter on the border
of control. Similarly, the keyboardist rocked out while playing,
reminding me a little of footage Iíve seen of Jerry Lee Lewis
in his heyday. Over all this, the singer projected almost quiet
vocals that seemed propelled by the sounds behind him, as opposed
to guiding those sounds. In short, the music had a great beat,
the musicians seemed to be throwing everything into the show,
and I was happy listening to those shoegazer-y guitars and vocals
played out over a wall of reverb and echo and keyboards.
After Midstates finished playing, I was quite happy and ready
to hang out even later to see the headliner, Good Friday Experiment.
However, I remembered (and PostLibyan reminded me) that it was
a Thursday, and I had to work in the morning. Knowing Good Friday
Experiment are a local band whom Iíve seen before and will likely
encounter again at some point, we decided to go ahead and leave.
Besides, in retrospect, I had been so impressed by Midstates
that seeing and writing about anyone else would be unfair.